Young and old paid a visit to Golden Plains Music Festival this past long weekend. The best thing about this particular festival is you can be a fan of any genre and feel safe knowing you have the weekend covered for you by Aunty Meredith. Indie music of course and a few obscure bands ‘the kids’ are talking about, but what Golden Plains has been especially good at delivering is some good old fashioned soul music.

The Festival kicked off on Saturday with Hunting Grounds playing to those organised enough to arrive in good time; quite a few people made it down to the Amphitheatre to catch the band who closed their set with a Beastie Boys cover. As well, there was a general agreement amongst attendee’s that Total Control were not to be missed which turned out to be spot on, their faster numbers getting more of a crowd response.

Lanie Lane provided a bit of afternoon delight, playing in the early evening to a crowd getting ready to party. Although her country style stood out amongst what was mainly hard rock she managed to easily hold the audience’s attention with her tiny velveteen shorts and cute as a button demeanor. The second she got onto stage and announced ‘Let’s play some rock and roll!’ she had the audience hooked. Not to distract from her musical talent however, this girl can sing and that is a fact. (Be sure to catch her sometime before Jack White steals her away again.)

Of particular note was Lane’s popular ‘Oh Well, That’s What You Get Falling In Love With A Cowboy’ which she delivered with the kind of devilish charm that suggests she knows all about cowboys, as well as a honeyed cover of the Black Keys song ‘Gold On The Ceiling.’

Ariel’s Pink Haunted Graffiti were always going to impress. Ariel Pink indeed wore lipstick for the occasion, looking every bit like one of those crazies you try to ignore on the street corner but once you get far enough away you secretly smile about and kind of wish you were like. It helped that Ariel’s backing band is made up of some very talented musicians, with some church organ inspired keyboard and a bit of vintage guitar sound which was very Beach Boys. It was hard not to think that you weren’t just watching a particularly crazed acid jam session but as Ariel demanded, ‘Step Into My Time Warp!’ and by the look of the audience the majority of them did.

Bon Iver surely had the largest, loudest and most loyal crowd of the whole weekend. A true performing chameleon, Bon Iver could go slow and growly or high and dramatic as quick as the wind. Within minutes of his set punters were already giving him the famous Golden Boot. Supported by a sturdy backing band, which included violinists and a trumpet solo, Iver managed to impress right up until the last minute of his set, which finished 20 minutes early much to the disappointed puzzlement of the audience who were more than ready for an epic encore.

Those who stayed up to party the first night were treated to a hip hopheavy DJ set from the great Dexter, who was looking equally as fine as his music taste. This was followed by an unexpectedly ambient set by Seekae, but not to worry the real party was still to come 

Admittedly most people were taking showers and eating breakfast when the music started the next day but many were properly woken up by the bat-out-of-hell type force of Harmony.

First Aid Kit was the real highlight of the early part of the day and many relaxed on a picnic blanket to their soothing harmonies which were complemented by chimes and sweet banter between the two female members about the country influence of their lyrics, exemplified in song ‘Emmylou.’

Endless Boogie brought the rock back to the stage, their Hendrix like guitar solos being particularly worthy of a mention and by the time Saskwatch was over not a person could be found who wasn’t already bragging about witnessing one of the greatest sets they had ever seen.

And then it was time for Bonnie Prince Billy, who brought The Cairo Gang with him. As Bonnie pointed out mid-set ‘what you have to do on a day like this is take acid, have sex and get sunburn – right here’ as he gripped his balls. And you know what? That pretty much sums up his performance; what a dude. It helped that he has one of those trembling soulful voices that make you feel like you’re being gently rocked to sleep, and when his female backing singer came in any thoughts of discomfort floated away. Decent lyrics too, this guy has real heart.

Surely the electricity in the air in anticipation of Roky Erikson could have powered the nearby town of Meredith. When the legend emerged on stage a kind of collective gasp rang out at his presence. His life experience showed on his face, in his overgrown beard, could he still deliver the throat bleeding vocals that have defined his career?

The answer came the second he opened his mouth, that voice is still there alright and in fact it has gotten better with age and certainly cut the air like a knife just as smoothly as it ever did. ‘Good-Bye Sweet Dreams’ was an early highlight of the set. The fierceness of Roky’s voice illustrated how much he knows about what he sings – if you didn’t cry, you have no soul. This was then trumped by Roky performing ‘Splash 1’ a hit for his previous band The 13th Floor Elevators and an absolute joy to witness for all the true fans in the audience as well for anyone who appreciates infallible song writing. The set was finished with the psychedelic anthem ‘You’re Gonna Miss Me’ which was one of those experiences you can’t really put into words.

Roky wrote that song when he was about 15 and he can still perform it with whatever passion that drove him to write it in the first place. Absolutely astonishing.

A 60-something soul singer by the name of Charles Bradley (& his Extraordinaires) took the stage. Why do soul singers perform like they are ageless? Perhaps the answer is in the genre’s name, there is a life force like nothing else that radiates from them as powerful as radioactive energy. It certainly enabled Charles Bradley to do the splits three times on stage. What was even better was how he managed to channel the greats – stage presence like James Brown, voice like Lee Moses – but also manage to be charming in his own right, a true stand alone performer. And to be still able to dance like he did Sunday night the man must be doing a whole lot right. Witnessing his version of ‘Heart of Gold’ will be something to hold snug in your memory for colder times.

The Black Lips have been around enough to have acquired a pretty strong following all over the world, and really you should attend one of their sideshows to see them properly. Even though the excitement for their show didn’t exactly fill the whole amphitheatre the real fans were right up front ready to party and that’s what was important. And certainly those watching way up the back should be recent addicts to the craziness that is a Black Lips performance.

Getting right into it with ‘Sea Of Blasphemy’, the four-piece never dropped below a beast awesome level of performing. Cole spat into the air and caught it in his mouth and when someone threw a hula hoop on stage he swung it around his neck and still managed to play his guitar with a ferocious energy. Playing mainly hit songs from their stand out album Good Bad, Not Evil the crowd loved every minute of it, and certainly no other band of the weekend had quite so many crowd surfers forcibly ejected (one guy could be seen dragged out four times, always with the same silly grin on his face).

A few songs off the bands recent album Arabia Mountain got a play, ‘Modern Art’ in particular going down pretty well with the crowd especially as guitarist Ian Saint Pe turned his guitar like a gun on the audience who squealed with delight at the sheer brazenness of it all. But it was their closing number ‘Bad Kids’ (as always) that got the biggest response. Talk about a song to unite the masses, who can’t relate to it?

Chic featuring Nile Rodgers played at the right time to make sure the audience danced the night away. Rodgers is known mainly as probably the most prolific songwriter in the business, name a good dance tune and most likely he wrote it. Luckily he can perform just as good and those closest to the stage didn’t stop dancing for a second. Chic provided the right kind of accompaniment to make sure each hit song was delivered both interesting and fresh, which meant David Bowie wasn’t missed when ‘Let’s Dance’ was performed. Rogers provided a bit of awkward banter to the crowd, particularly sore about this being his only invite to Australia in 30 years. Well, by all means Nile, come back whenever you like.

Naysayer and Gilsun have been dabbling in video DJing recently. The pair mashed up pop culture snippets (the brown dog from the Simpsons, Tom Cruise sliding in his socks in Risky Business, Connie from The Slap trying to masturbate etc) with popular tunes. It was rather like a scene from Brave New World, a massive crowd all gazing in an almost comatose wonder at the big screen, aching for some heavy bass so they can feel something instead of acknowledging daylight is coming. If the set wasn’t tongue in cheek it would have almost bordered on nauseous to witness, but really this kind of sensory DJ set goes hand in hand with the morning slot of a festival when everyone is too out of their mind to do anything but dance.

Canyons brought some real musical talent back to the stage, their keyboards, guitars and bushy brown hair were a welcome sight to say the least and when the menacing synth lines of ‘Keep Your Dreams’ rang out into the crowd everyone prepared to dance as though their own version of paradise was being created all around them.

Which is pretty much was.

– Hannah Joyner

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